With former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) no longer at the helm, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) can be divided into two main camps: those for and those against KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱).
This was the source of much internal tension in the run-up to last year’s presidential election, tension that did not abate until then-KMT chairman and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) stepped in. By this time, Chu was tainted by the controversy over Hung’s removal as the party’s presidential candidate and he did not fare well at the ballot box.
Now the party is preparing to elect a chairperson and it remains split along pro-Hung and anti-Hung lines. Hung is KMT chairwoman for now, but her tenure so far has seen only division, with no evidence of unity.
The division haunts the party as it enters the election campaign for the chairperson. Hung’s supporters, chasing small victories and reluctant to see the bigger picture, are trying to shore up their base. It is not even beneath them to bring the election forward or reorganize the party to ensure their electoral advantage, throwing the party into disarray.
Senior figures in the party are not happy with Hung’s leadership style, nor with the direction in which she is taking the party. Still, the two other candidates, KMT Deputy Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and former vice president Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), have clearly failed to learn the lessons of the presidential primary debacle and have prevaricated too long before throwing their hats into the ring.
Hau was first to reveal his intention to run. Wu chose to visit the tomb of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and, during a news conference, welled up while talking up Chiang’s achievements, playing the “Chiang Ching-kuo card.”
Wu was hoping to appeal to the veterans’ vote that Hung had sewn up long ago. His attempt will not only be in vain, it is also misguided, for that ship has long departed — it is out of touch with long-term trends in the nation with the advent of democracy, the move toward localization and the preferences of younger people.
What is more, the anti-Hung faction putting two horses in the race is dangerous, for if it cannot coordinate its efforts they will essentially be propelling Hung to the finish line.
The anti-Hung camp knows only too well the importance of unity and yet somehow it cannot avoid division. The path ahead is indeed bleak.
The KMT is pro-China, and it continues to defend the “1992 consensus” and the “one China” principle in the hope of gaining the political advantage in cross-strait exchanges and trade. This unavoidably builds a barrier between the party and young people.
The KMT under former chairmen Lien Chan (連戰) and Ma has cozied up to Beijing and even though interpretations of the so-called “1992 consensus” can be divided into Hung’s “one China, same interpretation” and the “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” formulation favored by Hau and Wu, it all leads to the same thing: It is just a matter of how one allows unification to occur.
The KMT has found itself all at sea while in opposition. It cannot seem to find a way into the hearts and minds of Taiwanese, and it is in fact alienating itself from them.
There is no sense of unity within the party and if anything the tensions are becoming ever more fraught. Not only is the party finding it difficult to cultivate new talent, it seems to be congealing into a small group of people who control the party apparatus, a group of people who should retire rather than continuing to vie for office.
Maybe it is no coincidence that a combination of the three candidates’ names resembles the phrase “completely helpless” in Chinese.